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Florida State College at Jacksonville Programs Help Keep Students out of Debt
Florida State College at Jacksonville Programs Help Keep Students out of DebtEarly College High School: Brianna Gainer interview
Florida State College at Jacksonville Programs Help Keep Students out of DebtEarly College High School: Dr. James Young, Principal of Ribault High School
While Florida State College at Jacksonville offers one of the most affordable public, four-year college educations in the United States, the College is committed to providing programs and services that can make getting a degree even more affordable and accessible.
By Florida State College Sun, February 26, 2012 4:07 pm EDT
Early College High School is a joint partnership with Duval County Public Schools that empowers students to begin their college experience two years ahead of schedule AND save thousands of dollars in the process. We interviewed some students to see how the program impacted their lives.
“Hi, I’m Brianna Gainer."
“Hello, my name is Emily Taylor.”
“Hello, my name is Icy Eley.”
“Hello, my name is Jametta Davis.”
These young women are part of an extraordinary group of students earning their Associate in Arts degrees from Florida State College at Jacksonville and their high school diplomas—at the same time.
Emily explains: “I speak to a lot of people all the time and they’re like, ‘Oh you’re graduating?’ and I’m like, ‘Yeah, also with my AA,’ and they’re like, ‘What? How’d you do that?’”
They did it through Early College High School—an accelerated Dual Enrollment partnership between Florida State College and Duval County Public Schools.
“It’s just a great, great program and opportunity,” says Lisa Milam, Dual Enrollment coordinator at Florida State College.
Early College is offered through four high schools across the district: Englewood, Sandalwood, Lee and Ribault.
While each program is a little different, students at Ribault take all their high school courses during freshman and sophomore year. They take the college courses during junior and senior year at North Campus of Florida State College. That means these students are fully engaged in the college experience—academically and socially—two years ahead of schedule.
“I think my first class I went to was public speaking. To see people much older than me was kind of jarring, but I got used to it,” says Emily. “I feet that I have matured a lot coming here as well.”
“Oh my gosh, I was so excited!” says Icy. “I was like a little nerd: I had all my papers and pencils and stuff and I was really excited… I didn’t think it could get any better than high school.”
“You get to experience college course loads while you’re still in high school,” says Brianna, who starts classes at the University of Florida in summer 2011—as a junior. “I will already be prepared. I will know what it takes; instead of walking through the door clueless, I will already know what I have to do to succeed there.”
One thing she and her fellow ECHS graduates didn’t have to do to succeed was take out huge student loans and go into debt to pay for their educations. These Early College graduates didn’t pay a penny out of pocket for their AA degrees.
“Books are covered. What about tuition? Tuition is covered, and everything’s free,” says Milam. “You’re looking at about roughly $9,000,” explains Milam, referring to the cost-savings of those first two years of college covered in ECHS.
“To have two years of college done for free, in these times, that’s a blessing to anybody,” says Icy.
“My parents keep telling me, ‘You’re saving me a lot of money!’” says Jametta, “So I’m realizing, yes I’m saving a lot cause I hear other college students talk about how much debt they're in, and how they are struggling, how they have to have a job. And I’m happy I was able to save two years’ worth of money, that’s a lot. Yes,” Jametta concludes.
“I don’t have the money to pay for college on my own,” says Brianna, “so just knowing that even if I didn’t find scholarships to go off to college I did save for two years.”
“By having success as 11th and 12th graders receiving the AA degree, they qualify for so many more scholarships,” says Dr. James Young, Ribault High School’s principal.
Emily: “My College GPA is like a 3.5 and my high school GPA is 3.73.”
Jametta: “I think it’s a 3.63.”
Brianna: “I got an A in every other class except for college algebra.”
Icy: “My grade point average is a 3.70 here at the college.”
The average GPA for all 10 of Ribault’s Early College High School graduates is a 3.11. So far, more than half of them secured scholarships, including Icy.
“I’m transferring to Florida Agriculture and Mechanical University in Tallahassee,” says Icy. “They offered for me a $20,000 scholarship and since I have over 60 credits, I’m going to be a junior once I get there, so yay!”
While Early College High School is free—these graduates say it’s not a free ride.
“I remember when I first got here my professors told me for every credit hour, every hour you spend in class, you would have to spend two to three hours studying and I didn’t believe her,” says Brianna. “I was like, there’s no way I am studying that much. But you will find out yourself, if you want to succeed you have to sacrifice.”
“Last semester I gave up every Saturday in the fall and did an 8 hour class, so that was crazy,” says Emily.
“Our classes are much harder since we are taking college classes,” says Jametta. “They are much harder than a regular high school, so when most students are out partying we are home studying.”
“Also know that once you make this commitment don’t think anybody is going to babysit you,” says Icy. “These teachers are willing to help you out, but they’re not going to just pass you; you have to work for it.”
These young women did—and hope their story will encourage more students to follow their lead.
“It’s a once in a life time opportunity,” says Jametta.
Here’s how Early College High School is funded: The state pays the students’ college tuition and the District picks up the tab for the textbooks. To learn more, click on the following links:
- Duval County Public Schools High School Acceleration Programs
- Early College High School Initiative
- ENLACE Florida Report: Dual Enrollment & Advanced Placement